Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Baking Part 2: Breakfast, Brunch, and Brinner

If you read this blog with any regularity you know how I feel about breakfast. I'd eat it all day and the only thing I like for breakfast better than bacon is french toast. I never make it though. It may be all of that beating and dunking and frying nonsense, but I do have a special place in my heart for a french toast casserole. I love that you can whip it up in a few minutes the night before and have an amazing breakfast with zero effort in the morning. You can mix up the add ins to suit your taste. I've done pumpkin and raisin, fresh berries, and of course, gouda and pears. Make this for your Christmas morning breakfast when you're too lost in a maze of ribbon and wrap to really cook, serve it for New Years Day Brunch or eat it late night anytime. So yummy!

Challah Back Apple and Cheddar French Toast
1 small loaf of challah bread, preferably a day or two old
2 small apples, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup skim milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Slice or tear challah into cubes. Toss with apples and spread into a greased 9x9 glass baking dish. Whisk eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, salt, and cinnamon and pour over bread. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered in foil for 50 - 60 minutes or until set. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake another 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Baking Part 1: Gingerbread Man Massacre

My best friend Jessica is full of awesome. She's gorgeous and funny and talented, can bake like nobody's business, writes for Backstage and got to interview Rooney Mara (!) just after Golden Globe noms came out, and knew enough to mail me gingerbread marshmallows all the way across the country just because. She's fabulous. So since I don't get to see her enough while she's out in LA hobnobbing with celebrities, I decided to create some brownies for her that she won't get to eat. That is until Christmas when I finally get to hang out with her!

If you haven't seen these Jet Puffed Gingerbread Marshmallows (which for some reason I keep typing as marshamallows) yet, get your behind to the closest Target or WalMart because they won't be around for long! How cute are these little guys? While they are perfect for topping cookies or cupcakes, or floating in hot cocoa, they are also awesome for holiday baking. As much as I adore them, they needed to get melted and fast. Now you all know I never met a boxed brownie mix I didn't like, but this is actually a from scratch brownie recipe. I figured I should go all out just once. However, if you are like me and honestly prefer boxed brownies or are generally lazy about baking, grab a box. Just prepare the brownie mix and bake per box instructions and add the goodies at the end!

Gingerbread Rocky Road Brownies
Adapted from Oh My God The Best Fudgy Brownies on Earth
1/4 c. unsalted butter
4 oz. chopped unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/3 c. flour
1 c. Gingerbread Man Marshmallows
1/2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray a 9x9 inch glass pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper to make a sling. Melt butter and chocolate in a medium pot over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Whisk in eggs, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. Whisk in flour and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or top is just set. Sprinkle immediately with marshmallows, nuts and chocolate chips and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until chocolate is glossy and marshmallows are puffed and gooey. Let cool completely in pan. Lift out using parchment paper and cut into squares using a hot knife. These buggers are sticky!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookie Swap!

For someone who has about two minutes of spare time a day, you might wonder why I'd want to participate in a cookie swap. Usually a cookie swap entails shopping, baking, packaging, getting showered, dressed, and driving your butt and your pretty little cookies to someone's house. That is, if you aren't hosting the swap, which is another whole list of scrubbed and sparkly to-dos. As much as I adore the baking and getting together part of such a party, the getting dressed in holiday finery is just too much for me to bear lately. Luckily this is the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, organized by Lyndsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen. It's a swap by mail. No clothing necessary. Sweet!

I knew I had to make my favorite holiday cookies. My Aunt Patti's almond cookies are the best thing on her huge cookie trays, and they have tough competition. She makes about 12 kinds, but every year I squirrel away at least 12 almond cookies. It's shameful. They are amazing with a cup of tea at dessert, perfect dunked in morning coffee, and good as a quickie snack when a carrot stick won't cut it. This is an old sercet-ish family recipe passed down among the aunts, so don't tell anyone I told you.

Patti's Almond Cookies

1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. oil
2 Tbls. cold water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
10 oz. slivered almonds
6 oz. chopped almonds
1 egg white, lightly beaten (for wash)
sugar or melting chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat first 6 ingredients until creamy. Sift in cinnamon, flour, and baking powder and mix by hand until well combined. Fold in almonds. Shape dough into 3 small loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake 20 - 25 minutes or until loaves are golden. Cool slightly and slice each loaf into bars. If desired, drizzle with melted chocolate.

And a HUGE thank you so the lovely ladies who took the time to bake and ship treats to me:
Renee of Casa del Kuchen whose Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies were gone in two days,
Amilia of Just Everyday Me whose Chocolate hip Cookie Dough Bars with Pretzel Crust combined the perfect amount of salty sweet,
and Erin of Big Fat Baker whose fabulous Rolo Stuffed Chocolate Cookies came in a box that sang carols to me. I know!

Thursday the round up of all of the (500 plus!) swappers will be posted, but you can visit the Facebook Page for most of the recipe links already!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Happy Holidays!

For some reason this little post got stuck and never posted, so here is a very belated Happy Holidays wish from the Bean Family :)

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